Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cox Rhode Race Marathon

I did the marathon!

I visited the dr earlier in the week, and he confirmed there was no stress fracture. He basically told me even if there was one, he'd suggest running the marathon and then resting afterwards. So, the next night I did a 30 min practice run, very slowly (though after today my definition of VERY slowly may have changed) with tighter shoes, and had no pain. So, we all decided that the race was a go with no running in the meantime.

So, Saturday I did the appropriate carbo-loading (home made pasta yum!) and went to bed early, terrified of what to expect. My longest run had been mid march, my 2nd longest run was early april, and the last 3 weekends in april I failed to do the assigned distances, and hadn't run mid week. Not looking good, really, but I figured I did my 22 miler in March after skipping a few runs, so it should be ok?

I could barely eat in the morning, but I forced a half almond butter bagel down and skipped my banana (maybe that was a bad idea) and drank some water pre start. I was nervous about being hydrated enough, but I had to pee 2x before the race even started (and we only got there 45 min early) so I figured it was probably ok.

Eventually, we were off! Heidi and I settled into a comfortable pace, somewhere between 9:30-10:00 miles and were just jogging it out, looking around. We saw the crazy marathoner that Tracy met in the Wisconsin marathon on Saturday, who was also running our race, so we stopped to say hi, and then went on our way. The first few miles were fine with no pain. The first 6-7 miles were on the same road, and it was rolling hills, which was more hills than I had been led to believe were on this course. The worst part of this realization was that this road also corresponded to miles 21- the end, so we had to do it in reverse at the end of the run. Luckily, in the maze of miles 8-20 I temporarily forgot about that!

Around mile 8 or so, we ended up in a much more scenic area with a bike path which we did a large portion of the run on. We caught a group doing a VERY consistent 9:30 pace and hung with them for quite a while. The 'leader' of this group is training for an ultra in vibram five fingers, and was using this as a training run. She had a handful of marathon maniacs in her entourage (from what i understand the marathon maniacs do a lot of marathons in different places in short time periods and have a bit of a club). The pace felt great, and we were perfectly content aiming to stay with her for a 4:10 finish. We crossed the halfway point at 2:03, and were in great shape. Then we lost them at a slow water station, and by mile 16 it went a bit downhill.

I had started aching and asked heidi, is it normal to start marathon shuffling at mile 16?! I stopped to tie my shoe because my foot was starting to bother me a little, and heidi was having some IT band pain. She was walking it off, and said to go ahead, and I figured I'd be dropping back soon enough so I had better stay moving. So, we split off at this point and each did the hardest miles of the race alone. I felt bad that we couldn't continue together, but I think it was for the better. It is so difficult to try to maintain the same pace as someone else when you are both struggling, so I think we were better off doing our own races at this point.

I continued on, and every mile became slower and slower. It was the polar opposite from how the first 16 miles went and I was amazed at how long my splits were compared to how much effort I felt like I was exerting. Different muscles were starting to bother me, but I chugged along slowly. Some of the aid stations were out of cups, so I drank a few sips from whole gallons. I met a girl wearing a ram racing hat who was from IL! The run was quite nice in here, but it was getting really tough. I allowed myself a walk break at mile 20. After that, I bribed myself by saying that I could walk when it was X:X5 minutes, and I walked a little at 3:35. When it hit 3:45, I felt good so I kept going until the next uphill, and I ended up compromising to walk the water breaks and the scary looking uphills. (As I had been warned, even not very steep uphills are much scarier when you are in the 20+ miles!).

Around mile 23, my calves started getting really tight- charley horse style. I wasn't prepared for this or expecting this, so I tried to stretch them as I ran. We had to go up a very steep incline to a highway overpass, which was narrow and single file. I was passing people though, until I needed to stop to stretch the calves out. I continued onward and passed mile 25. Shortly after I stopped to stretch again and a kind spectator offered me a banana, which I gladly took, to hopefully ease the cramping.

It may have been too late, because around 25.4 or so, I had to stop again, and this time both calves seized up such that nothing I could do would stop it. I crumbled to the ground, let out a wail of pain (I am not proud of this!) and two guys, who I have been referring to as my guardian angels, came up to me and asked if I twisted something or if it was cramping. I replied cramping, and I don't know what to do, and they said good, get up you need to keep walking. They told me I was probably dehydrated and one guy ran to get me some water from a nearby pub. The other guy helped me walk along, joking that he had a date to the marathon. I told them both they could continue on, but they said they'd rather help a newbie, and that they had each done 20+ marathons and weren't concerned about their times. Shortly after this Heidi caught up to us, exclaiming "nobody walks mile 25!" (this is a joke- a technician in my lab volunteers at mile 11 of Boston and loves to shout that out to the runners). I was so happy to see her, and excited that we would ultimately finish the marathon together. The four of us run/walked to the end, with a band of police motorcycles right behind us that must have been escorting some sort of service man. Heidi and I ran ahead at the end, and my calves started cramping again and I couldn't quite catch her and finished 2 seconds behind her! Final time: 4:28:05!

After the race, we walked it off, got water and pizza and beer and relaxed. I thanked my guardian angels many times. I am not quite sure what would have happened if they didn't come by right then and I am so thankful for that. They really helped me achieve this goal. Who knew that a solo sport like marathon could really wind up being a team effort. I hope I can pay it forward to someone in a race some day.

Heidi and I spent a lot of time this afternoon discussing how insane marathons really are. No matter how well you train there are always things that come up. For example, I thought I would be sidelined by my foot injury, which turned out fine, and my calves nearly kept me from finishing. Also, the distance is just so long, and most people haven't run a full marathon before they do the marathon, so it's so hard to predict how much your body can handle. I don't know what I was thinking setting my initial "conservative" goal at 4 hours! Of course, I did have a very sporadic training month in April. Despite the fact that I didn't skip any bike or swim workouts, it is not the same in preparation for the pounding on your feet and how that affects all of the muscles in your legs. I am sure that played a role in the earlier onset of pain. My 22 mile training run felt a lot better than that part of this race!

Regardless of the time, the pain, and the mental barriers that had to be overcome in this race, I am super proud of my accomplishment! Earlier in the week I was considering pulling out, but I pushed through and made it to the end in one piece! I took an ice bath and I am hoping that walking won't be TOO painful tomorrow, but I know it'll be a war wound to be proud of! I am so happy to say that I have completed my first marathon!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

1 week to go

Currently, I am one week out from the marathon that I have been diligently training for and getting injured from for the last 4 ish months. I spent the majority of the last week in France for work, with little time for running (and a lot of time for good eating!) so I took this as a much needed break (it's taper after all) from stressing about whether or not my foot was going to make it to May 6.

After my 21 hour travel day yesterday (with an unexpected 8 hour layover in Paris) I finally made it home around midnight last night and decided not to set an alarm for my hour run. The sun woke me up at 6 (thankfully not the cats!) and I decided I was rested enough and got ready to head to the treadmill. It would have been a nice day for an outdoor run, and had this pesky foot problem magically completely disappeared, I would have just done the 10k with the running group nearby, but I elected to keep it safe indoors.

I hadn't run for almost a week after my disastrous 2 hour turned 30 min run the previous weekend, and I hadn't exercised basically at all, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I hopped on the treadmill at 6.0 mph and just took it easy. The first 9 min were totally fine, and then I started to notice a bit of pain. I stuck with my "keep it interesting" trend of increasing 0.1mph every 10 min, and the pain ebbed and flowed. Sometimes it got sharper, but then backed down. Around 44 min, it got excruciating, and I willed myself to just get to 45 and see if it got better. Somehow, it did (though my form must have looked awesome as I tried to avoid stepping on the painful part!) and I continued through the rest of the run, increasing by 0.1 mph every 5 min to end just under a 9 min mile, which at one point in time, was pretty much my goal pace. The pace changes didn't seem to affect the pain, and knowing I only had an hour scheduled for today helped me to mentally push through it. However, I am really not sure what to expect for Sunday- would I be able to push through for another few hours?

I got an x-ray right after the run in preparation for my doctor's appointment on Monday. I found a primary care/sports medicine doctor in my insurance plan nearby, so I am hoping he will give me good advice regarding a game plan. Again, if the race is in the cards, I will go out there and do my best. I have no idea what my pace can be since the last few weeks have been so sporadic with running. If we (dr, coach, me) decide running is a bad idea, then I will go spectate the heck out of the race for my running buddy, or if possible, run/walk the half instead. It's going to be tough mentally if I can't do this race with all of the anticipation and training that has gone into it, and I know that while I am trying to remain rational, I will probably be devastated if I can't run. But, all in all, I will know if that is what happens, I will get through it and push onward. I don't think this training will go to waste. I have learned to push myself to longer distances, and I have really enjoyed it. And, I am confident that I will complete a marathon- if not May 6, then another day!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


After not running since last Friday, and pool running on Wednesday, I decided it was ok to attempt the 2 hour run I had this weekend. I got 20 min in and had to roll with the golf ball. 10 more minutes in, it still hurt, so I called it at that, and walked back with my friend. Why is this happening. I am slowly kissing the marathon goodbye- knowing that while I have trained sufficiently and am physically ready, whatever the heck is going on with my foot is telling me this is a bad idea. I'd rather skip this race and be able to run the rest of the summer/fall. A co worker ran Boston this past week and ended up in the hospital with kidney failure. A lesson to all to not push too hard. If I can't do this race, it will suck, but I know that there will be other marathons. I have thoroughly enjoyed the training (minus injuries) and am totally willing and eager to do it again. I even have an October marathon in mind. I haven't thrown in the towel just yet, but I am preparing myself now for what may be the reality in two weeks. In the meantime, I'm going to take it easy, and go see a doctor...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Pain

Why does something I love so much (running) continually try and beat me down? I have been injured now 4 times in the last just over a year, and I have had enough!

After the 20 miler I did last weekend in conjunction with the Great Bay Half Marathon, where my arch started bothering me at mile 18, it has escalated into real pain. Monday night I tried to do my prescribed hill workout, but the pain got to be so bad on the last hill that I couldn't bear to jog the cool down and hobbled my way home. I have been taking extra good care of it since then (rolling, icing, not running) and when the next long run came (Friday due to special weekend guests!) I was terrified. For one thing it's getting super scary close to the marathon to have an injury (can I really not run for 3 weeks of taper and be able to do 26.2?) and I had already had a super stressful week with work and other things- all of which I am sure were exacerbated by this nagging injury and my worry about not hitting the last long run, or running at all! I knew that if I didn't do the long run Friday it couldn't possibly get done.

After conferring with the coach, we decided the game plan would be to do a longer brick workout in the morning with a possible 2nd workout in the afternoon. I woke up at 4 am on Friday (thanks kitties) and knitted the majority of the toe of the socks I owed one of my visitors, hit the bike, then hit the treadmill (who knew how bad the pain would be - better to be safe inside than stranded on the road!).

I tentatively started the treadmill at 6 mph and gradually increased by 0.1 mph every 10 min. I had taped and rolled before the run, and it seemed to be helping. There was virtually no pain, so I pushed to the assigned 45 min to an hour. If I didn't have to go to work, I would have pushed a little longer, because at that point, I felt good- only a slight notice of the pain that was so bad the few days before.

I emailed my coach happily saying, let's do more tonight! To which she replied do 1.5-2 hr, which felt totally doable at first. But throughout the course of the day, walking in steel toed shoes up and down stairs, in and out of the lab, it was getting worse. I hoped it was just the shoes and that when I tied up my asics, I'd be good to go.

I was wrong. The first 10 min or so were ok, with just noticeable pain, but as I progressed it got worse. I took a break at 30 min to massage it, and got back on for 20 more. At this point it hurt more significantly, so I took a bathroom break, and sat down to massage it, and ended up chatting with another girl in the gym for a little while. I should have just cut my losses and quit while I was ahead. but instead, when we stopped talking, I told myself, you can do 10 more minutes. Big mistake. It hurt at the beginning and the last minute was so painful I even considered stopping at 9:30. But, my stupid type A self continued and I was in serious pain as I hobbled (again) back to my apartment and rolled and iced and cried.

Coach told me I'll still be fine. I am kicking myself for pushing too hard. I'm upset I didn't hit my original plan of 3.5 hours.

It feels a lot better this morning. I am icing right now, and able to walk not on the outside edge of my left foot. I am going to take it easy, have an awesome weekend with some great friends, and hope that the next three weeks bring me to completing the race successfully...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Great Bay Half Marathon

So my running partner had signed up for a half marathon for this weekend- only 5 weeks til the race. She had a lofty goal of doing 1 half marathon each month (Feb, March, April) and getting progressively faster at each one. She neglected to take into account that they went in the order of least hilly to most hilly...but that's besides the point. In any event, when I told her she should run my 3:10 with me, she was hemming and hawing about losing the money from the race, so I said I'd sign up too and we'd run 1 hour before the race and use it as a training run. I had read about people doing this, and it seemed like a good idea. First of all it forces you to finish your run. Secondly, you don't have to carry water. Thirdly, it's great practice for being in a race situation nearing your breaking point, which I am certain will happen in the actual marathon.

So, bright and early we headed the 1.5 hours to NH to the race, got our packets, sat in the car deciding what to wear (the weather was sunny and mid 40s). We had been chatting with the race director at packet pickup and he suggested a nice, not too hilly, long road that we could do our first hour as an out and back. So, around 9:45, we set out and enjoyed the slight rolling hills and gorgeous river and farm scenery. We turned around about 3 miles in and headed back to drop off stuff at the car (I had carried water for the first leg, and then we both decided long sleeves were too warm!). We hit the portapotties and jogged over to the race start, having already clocked just over an hour and a bit over 6 miles. We lined up with the 9:30 pacer, thinking we could stay with her to avoid going too fast and hit where we thought our goal pace would be.
And, we were off!

The first few miles were really beautiful- there wasn't anything too hilly and before we knew it we were at mile 3, staying either with the pacer or just ahead. Then we got to the dirt road section- hillier, rougher terrain with stones and pebbles everywhere, and I started to get a bad side cramp. Sigh. Well, luckily we weren't trying to PR this race! We chugged along hitting the water breaks and heading up and down the hills. After a few long miles, we were finally back on pavement, but the biggest hills were to come. We kept plugging along and trying not to think of the terrain as we enjoyed looking at the lavish houses near the sparkling water. It was truly a gorgeous morning for the race! There were some performers on the course as entertainment - including a roller blading-hula hooping- violinist, a little banjo related ensemble, and belly dancers! There were also bikers on the courses willing us up the hills saying, the worst is over. Not sure how many times we heard THAT on the course before we stopped believing it! But, all of these were welcome distractions and we kept plugging along.

At some point we got behind the pacer, but all decided she was running a VERY fast 9:30 pace because almost all of my mile splits were under 9:30 (although obviously the garmin clocks more mileage) was getting to the point where our "easy 9:30 half marathon training run" was getting quite difficult! The course was mostly a loop with a large lollipop between miles 9-12. I stopped to tie my shoe around mile 11 because my shins and ankles were starting to hurt, as well as a spot on the bottom of my foot. We finally got to the end of the lollipop and there was only 1 mile to go, which also had a couple irritating hills. The run passed the town hall which I remembered from our drive in so I knew we were close to the end. My friend zoomed ahead to the finish, but I was in a little pain so I just took it easy and picked it up for maybe the last 30 seconds. After finishing the race, I had about 4 min to go to hit my workout time, so I jogged around a parking lot til I hit 3:10 and exactly 20 miles for the day!

Post race, it had gotten overcast, and we were in tank tops and getting cold. We grabbed pizza, which turned out to be a less than good idea for our stomachs and hobbled back to the car to head back. We were chatting about how tough this race was but how good it was that we did it as a training run- it challenged us in many ways- we did not walk up a single hill, we kept a decent pace, we were in a position where we were forced to keep running to get to the end and couldn't cut the run short, and pushed ourselves on a very difficult training run. And - we got a medal and a tshirt bragging that we survived the hills of the great bay half. Despite the difficulty of the race, it was super well organized. There were accurate mile markers, pacers, plenty of water, entertainment, safety bikers, and a great post race party. I'm not sure I would want to tackle these hills again but I would definitely do more races through this organization.

One more LONG run to go!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Another run in the books

I set out for a 2:40 run yesterday. Despite the fact that last week the temperatures climbed into the 80s and I did plenty of running and even biking outside, it was supposed to snow early Saturday morning. I recalled the last snowy run I did in January, where it was in the 20s, windy, and we already had several inches, and I got worried. Then I realized, it was much warmer (mid 30s) and only flurries were expected and counted my blessings it wasn't going to be rain! I was out late the night before visiting with a friend, but my lovely cat woke me up at 530 anyway, so I was ready to start my run at 630. I headed out on the (paved) trail, and the first two miles just felt awful. I felt like I was dragging even though it was (slightly) downhill, and my fingers were cold which made me nervous. I told myself if they didn't warm up by the time I got back to my car (4.5 ish miles) I would stop at the car and get warmer gloves. Still, I felt sluggish and wondered how I was going to fill out the time! I told myself, don't think of it by miles, just think of it in chunks- just get back to the car and see how you feel. So, I did just that. Before I knew it I was at the turnaround heading back towards my car. I got to the car and felt the need to use the bathroom, but bribed myself to wait until about 8 o'clock, when the running group I had randomly bumped into on St Patrick's day would be starting their run. I looked at the time and calculated how far I should go forward on the trail before turning around to make sure I could run the last hour with them.
A little ways down the longer half of the trail, I started to feel great. Do I really have to turn around now or can I keep going? I turned around with just one mile to go, but knew that while it would be cool to do the entire length before heading back, it was more important for me to meet up with the other runners. At this point the snow had picked up a bit (only really flurries though) but I was warmed up and felt fine. I headed back towards the car again and still felt great! When I got back to the parking lot, I spotted the girl I met the last time- she was early and I said I was just running to the bathroom. I headed up to the Dunkin Donuts, then back and she said she'd run a little extra and we headed back on the trail. We did an extra 10 or so minutes in the opposite direction before turning around, past the cars again, and on to the 10k portion of the trail (that I had come close to finishing previously) and headed on. We didn't see anyone else from the run group, but they had probably already left. When we were a ways down we saw them coming back, and continued on our way to the actual end of the trail. We turned around and headed back- it was basically all downhill from here and the snow had basically stopped! Despite chatting constantly about running and triathlons, we were holding a pretty steady clip (faster even then I felt like I *should* be going, but I figured if we were able to chat it couldn't hurt!) and got back to the cars with 45 seconds to go- which we finished in the parking lot. I totally negative split this long run, finishing 17.44 miles in the alotted time.
We went to the dunkin donuts to meet up with the rest of the runners over some food and beverage and sat for a little while before heading home. I was super tired (mostly I think from not getting enough sleep) but I was so happy that I did the larger portion of the run before the other runners got there- I think it really helped make it go by quickly.
I sat around and relaxed for the rest of the morning before heading to my very first massage- I had bought a groupon and the day of a long run seemed like an appropriate time to use it. She did a good job, and I could really tell what my trouble spots were (shoulder, neck, calves) but after the massage, my calves in particular feel great!
Today I have a rest day, which I am using to do all sorts of free time things like knit, bake, cook, read and work on my recipe book. I just finished watching the Spirit of the Marathon, which I had received as a gift from my old officemate, and hadn't had time to watch. I got inspired to watch it based on TTT's post on FB about it- and it was truly inspirational. Not only did it make me super eager to get to my own marathon, but it also made me want to sign up for a Chicago marathon in the near future (and made me incredibly homesick!) Yay for running! Only 5 weeks to go!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring has sprung!

The weather could not have been more beautiful for the first week in spring. The last few days have had highs in the upper 70s/lower 80s, and we have been eating lunch outside, spending a little more time walking between buildings, and making conversations last longer when enjoying the great outdoors. In addition, I went on my very first lunchtime ride with my co workers today, and it was AMAZING. I haven't actually gotten my bike tuned up or really had anyone look at it after Austin, when I put it back together all by myself, but it seemed ok and I survived the bike ride. I pumped up my tires last night (which were VERY low) and got everything ready as I haven't done in months! I met the co workers outside just before noon, and we took off for our short lunchtime loop.
I tentatively started off, trying to remember how to clip in and out at our first stoplight, and heading up our first hill. Though I had been riding on the trainer with various resistances, it's still not the same as actual riding on hills. It was great to be out there though, enjoying the weather, going up and down the rollers, remembering how to adjust the gears accordingly, and just all around having a good time. Some of the roads were new to me, and some were familiar from my fall training rides. I was glad I remembered how to ride, and I felt cool and confident, staying near the front of the group, keeping up with the guys and even beating them up some hills. We finished our 16.4 mile ride in a little over an hour (my garmin said 1:08, but there was stoplight time, waiting for people to catch up time, and forgot to turn it off when we were done time factored in there!).
I'm normally not a fan of lunchtime rides (including getting ready and showering and finally eating, this was about a 2 hour lunch!) but it was so worth it to get out there and enjoy the weather in a group. I think I will try to make this a regular occurrence whenever my work schedule permits this spring/summer/fall. I remembered that I really do enjoy going for a fun ride outside and look forward to many more to come this year!